This weekend, Cheri and I took the boy to the antique mall.

We had something specific we were hunting for, but we also just like to look at old stuff. It can be a revelatory experience to see your Grandma’s heirlooms, or the precious items you had in your home, sitting on the shelves of an antique mall with a five dollar price tag. Suddenly you realize that your family had the same mass-produced stuff that everyone else had. It’s just the memories that you attach to those items that make them valuable.

While hunting for “unique” items, we found this Barbie doll, part of the “My Favorite Career” series. This “Rocket Scientist” Barbie was released in 1965.

"Yes, I am a Rocket Scientist!"

“Yes, I am a Rocket Scientist!”

Now, who am I to say that the little girls who received this doll were not encouraged to think about their career choices? For all I know, Rocket Scientist Barbie did her job, and she looked good doing it.

But Cheri and I had a good chuckle at what Barbie is saying on the box: “Yes, I am a Rocket Scientist.” We couldn’t help but think it sounded a little defensive. “Yes, I am a rocket scientist!” As if no one at the cocktail party believed her when they asked what she did. They assumed she must have mistakenly said “rocket scientist.”

Part of the fun of looking at old things is seeing just how silly so much of it looks now. Watch any of the old shows on Netflix, Dragnet or Hawaii Five-O. They are pretty silly. Sometimes they are painfully silly. But people enjoyed them at the time, without any irony.

That’s the challenge of doing creative work. Very little of what we do is going to last. Our work becomes dated. It goes out of style. It becomes silly to the people who find it later.

There are two things that do not become dated:

Wisdom

and Beauty

Wisdom and Beauty are completely fair, completely timeless things. Styles and tastes in beauty change, and peoples’ perceptions of what is wise changes. But Wisdom and Beauty are like objective truths.

temporary

If we want our work on Earth to last, to matter, to be a little more permanent, to not become kitsch in an antique mall, it’s best if it is pursuing Wisdom and Beauty.

It’s the time of year that all Art teachers know.

It’s the season when our rooms are bulging with too much stuff and not enough room to cram all of it. It’s art show season and my social media feeds have been awash in photos of teachers displaying their students’ best work. It’s a great time of year to steal ideas. But today, I’d like to share just a few of the things that came out of my room this year.

This is the work that made me jump for joy, pump my fist in the air and remember why I teach art. Remember, you can be creative too. You just have to start.

An exterior view of the Nelson Atkins museum here in Kansas City. I'm saying goodbye to several great artists in our senior class.

An exterior view of the Nelson Atkins museum here in Kansas City. I’m saying goodbye to several great artists in our senior class.

Farm fields with fourth grade.

Farm fields with fourth grade.

Ships at sea. This picture is so perfect in person, it makes me wonder if it was actually intentional or mere coincidence.

Ships at sea. This picture is so perfect in person, it makes me wonder if it was actually intentional or mere coincidence.

"Great Waves," like the famous Japanese painting.

“Great Waves,” like the famous Japanese painting.

Panda bears from first grade.

Panda bears from first grade.

I can't take any credit for this senior's work, and that's the best feeling. The most I contributed to her success is writing her letter of recommendation. She is going to the Kansas City Art Institute on scholarship.

I can’t take any credit for this senior’s work, and that’s the best feeling. The most I contributed to her success is writing her letter of recommendation. She is going to the Kansas City Art Institute on scholarship.

I always thought I had an opinion on matters of life, of conception, of the sanctity of it all.in-vitro_1443936-300x277

But infertility opened my eyes to just how complicated life really is. It also gave my wife and I plenty of ethical quandaries to consider.

Today, I’m guest writing over at Evangelicals for Social Action:

While everyone says that a baby is a “miracle,” infertility can provide a special glimpse of just how miraculous a baby really is, how audaciously beautiful life itself is. However, infertility and its treatment can also bring many ethical quandaries.

Though we may consider ourselves pro-life, and feel that we are educated on matters of life, it is safe to say that our churches and communities are not educated about infertility and the myriad of ethical problems that treatment can bring to a desperate couple. From the growing prevalence of stem-cell research, to the recent advances in the UK toward three-person in vitro fertilization, it is clear that while in vitro fertilization becomes more normalized, the most vulnerable humans on the planet are becoming ever more commoditized.

It is more important than ever that we understand how the next generation is not just going to be raised but conceived.

Join me at ESA and think about how conception happens in the “brave new world.”

This weekend, I finally completed a project that I’ve been working on for a long time. I finished transcribing the autobiography of one of my great-aunts.

For her ninetieth birthday, I sent her a tape recorder and told her to just talk. She did, for hours. 

My aunt grew up in the Depression, went to a one room schoolhouse, joined the Navy, had her tonsils out without anesthetic, helped run a dairy farm, and a whole lot more. As I listened, I found myself not wanting to type, but just listen. Every now and then, she would use some vocabulary word that would be foreign to me, so I’d have to look up something like a “Burroghs Bookkeeping Machine” to make sure I had the correct spelling. But that inevitably led to me reading about this completely obsolete machine that I would have no idea how to use.

It struck me as I listened that some memories had attached themselves to her mind with no particular rhyme or reason. It wasn’t that the details were especially important, they had just stuck with her.

That’s the thing about living. You never know what tiny thing will happen today that will lodge itself in your memory. Today will probably be a very ordinary day; you don’t expect to tell your grandkids or nephews and nieces about it. But something that happens today could still make it into your autobiography. You never really know when you are living one of those memorable moments.

Yes, you never really know when you are living a memorable moment, but you put a bunch of those little moments all together, and suddenly, you have led a fascinating life. Nine decades are condensed into fifty pages, and it becomes something worth remembering. It becomes something your relatives want to preserve.

I suppose that we all want to be remembered, but I’m not so sure that as many of us are willing to do the work to live lives that are worth remembering.

remembering

Maybe we change that today. Today will probably be an ordinary Monday. But you never know. You just might have an opportunity to tell someone about what happened today, a few decades from now.

This is the week when my Instagram feed filled with pictures of Art teachers prepping their school’s art shows. I’m in the trenches too, under a pile of papers and clay pieces and just hoping it looks like something by this time next week. Then I’ll have to take it all down again! Seriously, children’s art is a big deal.

In between bouts of furious working, these are the things that fueled, challenged and inspired me.

On My BookshelfPUD-cover-with-drop-shadow-350x500

Next week, a good friend of mine, Kelly O’Dell Stanley releases her book, Praying Upside Down. Kelly is a writer and artist and if you are a creative, spiritual type of person, this book is going to be right up your alley. It’s a prayer book, but it’s about art. Actually art is the metaphor for prayer. The book isn’t trying to make an artist out of you (if you don’t want to be.) It’s about refreshing your prayer life and I loved it.

In My Blog Reader

Zack Hunt shares a post that dovetails with what I wrote this week with The United Kingdom Is a Christian Nation, But The United States Is Not. Before you share that video of the Prime Minister calling the UK a “Christian nation,” read Zack’s important points of clarification that an American audience seems to be missing.

Tyler Braun addresses a topic that I don’t think I’ve ever seen blogged about with Dear Church, Old People Matter.

Kathy Escobar addresses why conversations about power and privilege never go very far and how to diffuse the anger and prejudice so we can actually speak constructively to one another, Five Popular Ways to Shut Down Conversations About Power.

Finally, Kelly Rosati speaks to what I think is probably a deeply entrenched belief, not just about adoption, but about the many systems that attempt to care for children, Adoption Doesn’t ‘Fix’ Children.

That’s it from me. See you next week!

memories-pizza-indiana

Memories Pizza. The name sounds like I’m going to get pizza, and maybe some glamor shots.

I was a huge Parks and Recreation fan.

And is it just me, or do the fictional citizens of Pawnee, Indiana seem a little bit less fictional and more drawn from life lately? Seriously, the fickle voters of Pawnee could always be counted on to harass Leslie with even the most inane of complaints. “I didn’t say I wanted all the slugs gone, just some of them!” is probably my favorite line of the entire series.

Lately, Indiana has been receiving plenty of completely deserved attention for finally making a stand for all of their persecuted Christians. Pizza shop owners seem to be especially grateful for their newly protected freedom to refuse service to LGBT customers.

Because serving someone pizza is obviously an endorsement of a customer’s lifestyle.

Can we all admit that Christianity, at least in America is getting worse?

This is what Christians do not understand about religious freedom.

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